Where to go if you’re holidaying in the Southwest
Instead of the Med, many of us will be heading for the shores of Southwest England this year – perhaps some even holidaying at home for the first time. The LRI team have put together some of our best personal recommendations, sourced from our own trips to Devon and Cornwall, to help you make the most of your visit (and, where possible, avoid the crowds!)
A view of Salcombe in the sunshine.
By Dan & Sarah, co-founders
We’ve been holidaying in Devon and Cornwall for years and love both counties: the scenery, beaches, seafood and walks mean we keep going back for more.
This year we went to Salcombe for the first time and were really impressed – it’s a beautiful coastal town on the Kingsbridge estuary that’s a mecca for yachties, with sandy beaches and clear deep blue water to rival the Med!
Salcombe is one of the most expensive places to buy property in the UK, and there are some amazing homes built into hills rising from a handful of sea-level streets – all with views of the estuary. A ferry ride around the estuary is a great way to see some of these amazing houses from the water.
The town’s cobbled high street has lots of independent shops and boutiques to browse in and the causeway that was built during the Second World War by the Americans and was previously a car park has been reinvented as a market square with seating areas and cafes, so it’s now a very pleasant spot to sit and watch the world go by.
The beaches are just gorgeous…there’s Northsands, which is about a 15-minute walk from the town, with its beautiful white sand and great family-run restaurant The Winking Prawn. We had a fabulous prawn cocktail and garlic prawns – somehow they always taste even better by the sea!
From Southsands beach, you can get a ferry to East Portlemouth, which might be a good bolthole if you want to get away from the crowds as it’s easier to find a bit of privacy here. It’s sandy and secluded with crystal clear water and there’s a café above the ferry slipway.
You can walk from East Portlemouth onto the South West Coast Path to Gara Rock, with dramatic views. We wanted to have a meal at the Gara Rock Hotel while we were there because it looks fantastic – but sadly it was closed because of Covid… it should be open again for the summer.
Another good way to get away from the crowds is to rent a boat – that way you can go off on your own and find lots of little beaches that aren’t accessible by road.
We also loved our walk on the coast path at Bolberry Down, which is part of the National Trust and very accessible. The Oceans restaurant here is very good. It’s also well worth a trip to Hope Cove and the Lobster Pod Bistro, where you can dine outside or in the glass pods which are set into the hillside – all with amazing views.
We loved Salcombe so much we’re going back this summer in a motorhome, which we’ve hired for the first time. We just hope we’re going to be able to negotiate the narrow roads without too much trouble… we’ll let you know!
Looking from the sand dunes to Woolacombe Bay with Lundy Island in the distance.
WOOLACOMBE, CROYDE AND LEE BAY
By Mandy, marketing assistant
I love Woolacombe. Driving into the bay and seeing the first glimpse of Potters Hill and the long golden beach stretching from Baggy Point to Mortehoe never fails to lift the spirits, come rain or shine (and more often than not, it’s the former!).
My partner Chris used to holiday in Woolacombe every year as a boy, his parents first staying at a guesthouse in Beach Road and then at the Woolacombe Bay Hotel, a grand Victorian building that has been sympathetically updated and now offers luxurious suites along with a spa, private cinema and outdoor lido. It also has a fun pitch and putt green (also open to non-residents) where, for some reason, my golf “swing” always seems to provoke hysterical laughter…
We started going back to Woolacombe when our daughter was a toddler and have many happy memories of her running through the sand dunes and body boarding in the surf during half-term holidays.
Summer in Woolacombe is always busy and I’m sure it’ll be at maximum capacity this year, however the beach is three miles long so it’s possible to find a spot away from the masses further along. Just be mindful that the beach isn’t patrolled all the way down.
The beach is lovely and sandy, backed by dunes and rolling hills. If you want to spend the day here, it pays to arrive early, as parking is limited.
There are kiosks serving drinks and food and more options in the lively village. The Captains Table is great for a fresh Devon crab sandwich or toasted panini for lunch, the Red Barn is an option for standard pub grub (although dogs are now barred apparently!) and the Woolacombe Bay Hotel brasserie is excellent – we’ve enjoyed many delicious meals here and rarely been disappointed.
The other side of Baggy Point is Croyde Bay, another haven for surfers with more amazing sand dunes. Stop off for a slap-up Devon cream tea at May Cottage Tea Rooms in the village. You can walk here from Woolacombe along the beautiful coastal path, or drive, which takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
Looking swell on an overcast day – Lee Bay.
If you want to get away from the crowds, head for rugged and rocky Lee Bay. When the tide’s out in this scenic little cove, you can explore lots of gleaming rockpools and sandy inlets.
Walk up the footpath from the beach, over the stream and into the village and you’ll find The Grampus Inn, a hugely characterful, charming, low-beamed and knick-knack-full pub that serves fantastic, hearty home-cooked fare. You can always walk off your meal amid the ancient broadleaved woods and bubbling streams of the Borough Valley (there are a few steep slopes, though, so best not tackled after a couple of drinks!).
If you’re in the area, it’s well worth a drive to the picturesque seaside village of Clovelly, with its steep cobbled main street, pretty harbour and waterfall.
You park at the top and walk down, as there are no cars allowed – which adds to its charm, but it can get crowded at peak times.
The old seaside town of Ilfracombe is a short drive away, with its pretty harbour and plethora of cafes and fish and chip shops. The Tunnels are quite fascinating – handcarved in the 1820s they lead to a series of small beaches with lots of rock pools and a tidal swimming pool that was a big attraction for Victorian bathers!
From Ilfracombe you can get a ferry to Lundy Island – a beautiful, wild haven and the largest single island seabird colony in southern England. It’s famous for its puffins and hundreds of them nest here every year.
Mother Ivey's Bay.
By Sara, sales associate
I’ve been going to Padstow for 50 years!! I love it down there so much and my children are now creating their own childhood memories of the area.
Padstow is a beautiful fishing village on the North Cornish coast. There are some amazing walks, one of which – the Padstow to Treyarnoon Bay walk – takes in the stunning beaches of Trevone, Harlyn, Mother Iveys, Boobys Bay and then finally Treyarnoon. I did this walk a few months ago and it was so beautiful.
There are some excellent restaurants in Padstow, Rick Stein’s being the most famous. When we're in Padstow we always go to his bistro, St Petroc’s – it’s on the steep hill as you head out of town and the food is great and well priced! One of his former chefs, Paul Ainsworth, is now giving him a run for his money with restaurants like No 6, his Town House Hotel, Rojanos and the Mariners over at Rock, which are all very smart and definitely well worth a visit.
We normally mooch around the harbour then head to Cherry Trees Cafe – for a well earned afternoon tea. The cakes and pavlovas are gorgeous and the lunch menu is mouth-watering.
Every year as a family we do the Camel Trail which is an 18-mile cycle trail which runs from Padstow along the old train line along the estuary to Wadebridge, an old market town with quaint shops and cafes. The views along the estuary are so beautiful.
The trail runs all the way to Bodmin, where you can visit the Old Jail, which – rumour has it – is haunted! Along the way we always stop off at the Camel Vineyard for a sneaky glass of wine among the vines! Then we weave merrily back along the trail.
The pretty harbour has lots to offer... you can go out on the ‘Jubilee Queen’, a pleasure cruiser that takes you up the estuary to Puffin Island and on to Port Isaac on a calm day!
You sometimes see dolphins and seals on these trips, which is amazing. They often have jazz nights too, which are great fun. There are also various speed boat trips which operate out of the harbour, which the kids love and are great fun.
Sailing and golf
You can catch the ferry over to Rock and have lunch at the Blue Tomato or the Mariners which are both very nice and have amazing food! For boat lovers, Rock has a fantastic sailing school and you can also water ski and paddle board along the estuary.
Rock also has a great links golf course called St Enodoc, which is very prestigious and has amazing views over Daymer Bay. Former poet laureate Sir John Betjemen is buried in St Enodoc Church, which because of its location among the sandy dunes was completely submerged by sand in the 18th century! It was rescued in 1863 and the sand stabilised to protect it.
A view over the Camel Estuary from Hawkers Cove.
There is a beautiful walk along the beach and cliff tops to Polzeath from Rock. Around the headland is the pretty fishing village of Port Isaac, famous for the ITV drama ‘Doc Martin’ and the Fisherman’s Friends who perform on the harbour most Sundays in the summer.
Cornwall and Padstow's beautiful beaches are a surfers' paradise. We always take our surf boards and wet suits down with us as with the good old Cornish weather you always need your wet suit. However you can hire boards at most beaches. Harlyn Surf school do great lessons for all the family as well as coasteering and kayaking around the headland, which is really good fun.
The simple things in life are lovely to do in Padstow: crabbing from the quay, cream teas, rock pooling and surfing at the many stunning beaches. Booby’s Bay is my favourite as it so beautiful and quiet – only the locals really know about it!
I love the journey down!! I’ve been doing it for so long now! I know every inch of the A303!! we often stop off at Pip’s Railway Carriages, just past Sparkford, which does lovely food and it breaks up the journey, it's well worth a pit stop.
By Sue, sales associate
When I was very little, we owned a small apartment in a place called Millendreath, which is a very small bay not far from Looe. My sister and I would go missing most of the day either rock pooling or climbing the cliffs as in those days neither of us had any fear of doing this!
We used to visit Looe regularly and always had to stop at the monkey sanctuary. (It opened in 1964 and is still providing a safe haven for monkeys to this day. With the Covid situation, and to protect monkeys from the virus, the sanctuary is offering pre-booked guided tours, which take about an hour, so if you plan to visit, book early).
We also loved Polperro, a quaint and ancient fishing village which has tiny roads that cars cannot access. As kids we loved the model village, which is an actual reproduction of Polperro itself. I was convinced that small people lived in the tiny houses and I would stand there for ages to see if we could see any movement!
Sadly I haven't been back since – mainly because I've been too busy going abroad or on cruises! But it looks as though I could well be visiting again on a staycation later this summer, so I'll let you know of any recommendations next time...
Watch this space!